A medical answering service is a company that can handle the after hours or overflow calls from your office. The type of services they offer vary a lot, from basic message relay and emergency dispatching to appointment scheduling and more. To find out who’s the best, we reviewed 3 of the top medical answering services and compared their price, features and reputation. See our recommendation as well as a detailed comparison below:
Best Medical Answering Service: Call4Health
We recommend Call4Health.com because they offer the biggest range of services at the lowest price.
Best Medical Answering Service Comparison Table
Price for Basic
depending on call
Callers can “press 1” to
confirm or “press 2” to
$0.13 per reminder
that are professionally
recorded for your
$0.20 per reminder
callers hear an
nurses can triage
patients and provide basic medical advice
$14.50 per call
Available? (to receive
but it costs
but it costs
$135 one-time fee
How Medical Answering Services Work:
First, a quick note on what medical answering services actually offer. It’s typical for an answering provider to have many different types of services within their plans. Clients can add and subtract features as they go. In particular, we’ve noticed 3 main tiers of service, starting with the simplest (and most affordable) and moving up to the advanced (and most expensive):
- Basic Messaging. A receptionist takes the call, copies the message and sends it to you via email or text. If it’s an emergency, you or your on-call provider may receive a phone call or alert instead.
- Appointment Scheduling. Accessing your calendar, receptionists schedule patients for you. Usually they can also verify insurance and process credits over the phone. This type of service also includes appointment reminders.
- Nurse Triage. Patients can speak with a registered nurse and receive basic medical direction. This is ideal for physicians who want to give their patients 24/7 access to care, yet still sleep at night.
Why We Recommend Call4Health as the Best Medical Answering Service
Call4Health offers all 3 tiers of service at prices that beat their competitors. For as little as around $300/month, you could set up a full answering service, including basic messaging – in which a receptionist takes messages from callers and forwards them to you as a text or email, emergency dispatching – in which receptionists alert you or your on-call provider in the event of an emergency, appointment scheduling and appointment reminders. The equivalent service from Stericycle Communications would cost around $2,000/month.
Of all the services we reviewed, Call4Health is the only one to offer nurse triage, where a registered nurse can advise your patients after hours. What’s also nice about Call4Health is how you can pick and choose features to personalize your service. For example, if you prefer to handle appointment scheduling yourself, you could just use Call4Health just for appointment reminders and vice versa.
When to Use Ringadoc
Ringadoc is for physicians who just need a simple way to receive emergency messages after hours. When activated, callers who dial your office number will reach an automated menu. They’ll be asked whether or not their situation is an emergency and then prompted to leave a voice message. Emergency messages will be immediately forwarded to you or your on call provider via Ringadoc’s secure (HIPAA Compliant) messaging app. Non-emergency calls will also be forwarded to the app, but without an alert.
What’s nice about Ringadoc is the simplicity and the handy tools you get with the mobile app: You can play messages, call the patient back with your office number displayed on the other end, send them a voice recording or forward the call to another physician. You don’t get a live receptionist answering the phone as you would with Call4Health or Stericycle, but for particularly sensitive issues, patients may actually feel more comfortable leaving a message than speaking with a live receptionist.
Pricing varies based on the different features you want and the number of minutes you need (i.e. call volume) per month. Basic messaging costs $153/month for 150 minutes after taxes and fees. 150 minutes usually translates to around 100 calls.
There’s also a $20 fee if you want to accept calls on a holiday. Call4Health counts 8 holidays throughout the year, including New Years Day, Labor Day, Memorial Day and the 4th of July.
Call4Health also has an appointment scheduling service that charges separately. It’s about $131/month for 150 minutes. Appointment reminders, which can be added with appointment scheduling or separately, are charged at $0.13 per call. Just note that you may need more minutes for scheduling than basic messaging, since things like scheduling and copying credit card information can take longer. Finally, Call4Health’s nurse triage starts at $145 for 10 calls. It’s priced at $14.50 per call, but you have to sign up for a minimum of 10 calls.
Like Call4Health, there’s different packages available and pricing varies based on call volume, as well as the number of physicians and locations of your medical practice. Basic messaging for 1 doctor at 1 location costs $178.87/month for 150 minutes. If you want appointment scheduling and reminders, the cost shoots up to around $2,000/month, which is far more expensive than Call4Health’s charge of $150-$300/month.
Appointment reminders cost 20 cents each. Stericycle does not offer nurse triage.
Ringadoc is only a basic messaging/dispatching service, while Call4Health and Stericycle offer much more:
Call4Health offers the full range of answering services, including basic message relay, emergency dispatching, appointment scheduling, appointment reminders and nurse triage. Appointment reminders are unique in that callers will hear an automated message and be able to press 1 to confirm or press 2 to cancel their appointment. If they cancel, you have the option of forwarding that caller to a receptionist to reschedule the appointment.
Nurse triage is another feature unique to Call4Health. Patients can speak with a registered nurse and receive basic medical direction, such as whether or not to go to the emergency room and/or what measures they can take at home before getting in touch with their doctor the next day.
Like Call4Health, Stericycle offers the full range of services minus nurse triage. They also do a few things Call4Health does not typically do, such as process and verify insurance information over the phone. This is ideal if you have a lot of first time patients. Call4Health also records personalized messages for appointment reminders and offers call recording. While these advanced features partly explain the higher price tag ($2,000/month), it’s questionable whether or not they justify it. Call4Health has most of the same features for only around $300/month.
Ringadoc is a basic messaging and dispatching service that primarily differs in that there’s not a human receptionist answering the phone. Callers reach an automated menu that directs them to leave a message. They can specify whether the situation is an emergency, in which case the on-call physician receives an alert, or a non-emergency. In both cases the caller will leave a voice message that will be sent to the physician via the mobile app. Nonemergency messages will be listed, but they will not ring the phone like emergency calls do.
Because HIPAA regulations can prohibit physicians from receiving patient messages via normal SMS text, each of these services offer a secure mobile app for messaging. Of the 3, Ringadoc is the most solid. In particular, it has a feature where you can call patients back using your office phone number.
Call4Health has a basic mobile app for receiving messages. As with the other apps, it adds extra security measures to comply with HIPAA standards of patient confidentiality. The cost for the mobile app is $6/month.
Ringadoc has an advanced mobile app. You can play your urgent and nonurgent messages and respond directly to patients. You can call them straight from the app while displaying your office number on the other line so you don’t have to give away your personal number. Also, if you don’t have time for a conversation, you can record a message and send it back in one click. The app does not cost anything extra – it comes with the base package of $69/month.
There’s not too much in the way of user reviews for these services, however we were able to gauge their reputation by reading employee reviews on Indeed and and reading customer reviews on the app store. From what we heard, all 3 appear to be reliable and professional services.
Call4Health has mostly positive reviews on Indeed. Many employees note the higher level of responsibility they get compared to a regular call center job and the specialized medical knowledge they receive. Still, it doesn’t seem immune from the typical call center grind, such as the high call volumes and repetitive work.
The Bottom Line
For doctors and medical professionals, it’s important to choose an answering service that specializes in the medical industry. Not only are you more likely to find the set of services you need, like appointment confirmations and emergency dispatching, but you can be assured receptionists are familiar with medical terminology and trained to handle the sensitive needs of patients. Also, you’ll find HIPAA compliant solutions for receiving text messages and communicating with patients, which you probably won’t find from a generic answering service.
As for who’s the best medical answering service, Call4Health is the clear winner. They offer just about all the same features as Stericycle, plus more (nurse triage) and have a similarly positive reputation. Yet, their service costs a fraction of the price: almost 1/6th as much.